February 6th, 2008
03:03 PM ET

85 years of Warner Bros.

From CNN Entertainment Producer Douglas Hyde in Los Angeles:

I work the evening shift in the CNN Entertainment unit, so it was a nice change of pace to be let out for good behavior as it were, and leave the cubicle for a few hours to attend a special reception in honor of Warner Bros.’ 85th anniversary. (Warner Bros. is, of course, a unit of Time Warner, as is CNN.)

From our bureau in Hollywood it was a quick drive “over the hill” to the Warner Bros. studio in Burbank. Though I’ve been covering entertainment for awhile, I’m not jaded when I get a rare visit to a big Hollywood studio. There’s just something about walking through the sound stages and seeing those carts whipping by that always gets my inner film buff going.

Warner’s Home Entertainment Division – the studio’s video arm - told the assembled press how the studio was going to celebrate the anniversary over the coming year. The centerpiece will be a three-part miniseries on the history of the studio, directed by documentarian and Time magazine film critic Richard Schickel, which will air this September on PBS as part of their “American Masters” program. Schickel says when he approached Clint Eastwood about narrating the documentary, Eastwood said he’d only do it if it weren’t a puff piece. Schickel agreed, and says the film isn’t afraid to criticize the studio or point out films that were complete duds.

The other big headline coming out of the evening for movie lovers is that this year the studio is releasing deluxe DVD editions of “Bonnie and Clyde,” the “Dirty Harry” films, “How the West Was Won” and “A Christmas Story.” And Old Blue Eyes himself, Frank Sinatra, will have a slew of his films released in special box sets.

During the press briefing, we were introduced to two very attractive blonde women who were executives for Best Buy and Amazon.com. I mention this only because their good looks did not escape the notice of legendary ladies’ man Warren Beatty, who was there to pay tribute to the Home Entertainment Division’s film restoration efforts. He joked that if the two women had been around in the late ‘60s they probably would have screen-tested for the part of Bonnie in “Bonnie and Clyde.” After his speech, he invited the ladies down for a photo and engaged in some harmless, good-natured flirting. After all these years, the man still has the touch. Something strangely inspiring about that.

After the press briefing we were ushered into the studio’s museum for the reception. It was a treasure trove of costumes and props. I especially enjoyed the "Departed" exhibit, which had the celebrated “Citizens Bank” envelope that was so key to the plot. Sinatra’s children Tina, Nancy and Frank Jr. were awkwardly paraded out for a photo op, then “Charlie’s Angels” director McG (on left, with Schickel), who’s helming the upcoming “Terminator” film, “Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins,” came out to say a few words about the studio’s legacy. To his credit, he was very candid about his own career and shortcomings, saying that while he’s enjoyed commercial success, he hasn’t achieved critical and artistic acclaim yet. But it’s something he’s aiming for.

Speaking of aiming for something, I took a page out of Warren Beatty’s book and chatted up one of those attractive blonde executives. Just a little bit of Hollywood schmoozing before returning to the cubicle …

- Douglas Hyde

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